I come from India, where a ‘bike’ is a motorbike and a ‘cycle’ is a bicycle. The folks at home were understandably upset when they found out I would be riding a bike across South-East Asia this summer.
Interestingly, I was one of the last kids on my block to learn how to balance on two wheels. I had a vivid moment of clarity one afternoon at age nine, when my mother decided that enough was enough. She arranged for me to perch precariously on my bicycle and for the strongest man in the neighborhood to stand behind me and give me an almighty push. I hurtled down the street like there was no tomorrow, wailing all the way. My love affair with bicycles started that day, and has only grown rosier with time.
It’s strange how things work out: the feeling I have now, perched on the brink of adventure, is strangely similar to the one I had way back then. My training wheels are off, and I have no idea what I am doing. I know that I am not as strong or fit or world-wise as I need to be in order to complete this journey. If I wait around, I fear I never will be. I guess I’m asking for the same miracle that my mother asked for: that I will learn as I go along. And just as was the case all those years ago, I am confident that I will learn more than I can now imagine.
Hi! I’m Daniel from Singapore. I share an uneasy relationship with the bicycle. At the tender age of 6 I tried to impress my crush by pillion riding her down a slope. My bike cruelly decided to throw me off – resulting in a fractured arm, an earful from my mum, and eternal humiliation. Suffice to say, my crush was not very impressed.
Since then, I’ve always kept a wary distance from the bicycle. I chained up my bike and watched it rust away. The bike became the first love left behind for a steamy affair with the skateboard. On Saturday mornings, I would laugh at middle aged men in far too tight, (and far too neon) bike tights huffing away on the road shoulder.
On this trip, I am giving the bicycle a second chance. I can only hope that she is gentle and not vindictive. I look forward to making Martha (my old and arthritic but very charming 1997 giant grandmother of a tourer) my home and my companion for the next 10 weeks. I anticipate long dinners, awkward hugs and heartfelt conversations with the rest of her kin scattered throughout Southeast Asia. It will be a privilege to hear their stories of their riders and their places.
Amidst joyous reunifications and teary goodbyes,
I am going on this trip to carve out silence and space.
In search of the quiet magic of the mundane,
the well water within –
and to gulp from the dailiness of life.
I leave with you my favorite poem:
What a girl called “the dailiness of life”
(Adding an errand to your errand. Saying,
“Since you’re up . . .” Making you a means to
A means to a means to) is well water
Pumped from an old well at the bottom of the world.
The pump you pump the water from is rusty
And hard to move and absurd, a squirrel-wheel
A sick squirrel turns slowly, through the sunny
Inexorable hours. And yet sometimes
The wheel turns of its own weight, the rusty
Pump pumps over your sweating face the clear
Water, cold, so cold! you cup your hands
And gulp from them the dailiness of life.
– Randall Jarrell
Daniel & Martha (my bike)
I’m Kei (pronounced like a Key).
I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (USA) and then grew up in New Orleans, Dakar (Senegal), and Taos, New Mexico.
I attended the United World College in Swaziland, and I’m now going to school in Singapore.
I come from a family of cyclists. When my brother Macky, now a professional Enduro Downhill cyclist, started mountain bike racing, the whole family used to go to his races to to cheer and support. We quickly decided, however, that if we were already there, that we might as well start racing too. We all had matching bike jerseys and would load 6 bikes on the car, and travel around the USA every summer, racing.
My love for cycling was magnified in 2009, when I rode across the USA from Colorado to Washington DC. This 6 week long trip taught me the beauty of a nomadic lifestyle, and the value of surrendering my fate to the powers that be.
I’m am excited and nervous for this new adventure with the Chakrayan Chums. Since moving to Singapore last July, I have had an overwhelming desire to better orient myself in this new region of the world I now call home. I am very much looking forward to hours of contemplation while pedalling, to the delicious food I hope we find, to the epic tan lines we will get, to a-lingual conversations, and to playing my ukulele in every place we stop.
I hope to find some clarity about my priorities, what I value, and the power of silence and surrender. I hope to share my love of the bicycle with many people along the way, and I hope to discover the beauty of nomadic travel and to embrace the unknown and the unexpected.
(riding Yet-Tu B. Naimd)